‘Rapid Growth’ During Creation Week as a Solution to the Starlight and Time Problem

Did Adam and Eve have a belly button? You may have heard this issue being caricaturized as a typical issue that churches have fought over. As silly as that would be, I believe that a tremendous amount of insight can be gained from pondering this question and others that are related to it. Doing so may just help resolve some of the outstanding problems us creationists have not yet solved.

So what was the problem with Adam and Eve? The problem is that Adam and Eve’s ‘development’ was unlike our development, and radically so. Consider this: Not only did Adam and Eve not form in a mother’s womb, what’s more, they didn’t even have a mother! As such, they mostly likely never had an umbilical cord connected to their ‘tummy’ while God was forming them, leading to the possibility that they simply had no belly button. But if we really ponder on some of the simple, straightforward points just made (such as that neither of them had a mother), it opens up some much deeper considerations than the basically cosmetic question of whether or not they had a belly button. But let us first consider one more cosmetic issue, as the following question addresses the problem of rates of development: Did Eve have long hair at the moment she was fully formed (and when she was presented to Adam)? I think we would all agree: She must have. But how long does it take hair to grow down past the shoulders? At least a year, right? Or in some extraordinary circumstances, within a few months. But did it take God a year then to make Eve, because of that rate-of-development constraint alone? Or, considering the mature creation view: Did God just instantly (poof bang!) have hair fully formed on her head?

While the first answer is unacceptable, I must say: the second proposal, which well sums up the ‘mature creation’ view, is itself unsatisfactory, and not necessarily biblical either. I believe this view makes some assumptions that are unwarranted, and that are not in tune with the biblical descriptions of how God created things. The consistent testimony of Genesis 1-2 is that God created things through a series of progressive steps, no, not evolutionary steps, but progressive design steps nonetheless. The first evidence of this of the very fact that God took six days to create the world in the first place, rather than instantly calling everything into being fully formed and in a moment of time. And in other cases, where it seems like God may have just simply spoken many things into existence, we often find out (particularly with the help of Genesis 2’s testimony) that in fact, these acts also were accomplished through a number of progressive design steps, through a process of molding and formation, or through a process of growth. Even in the case of Man (‘Man’, by the way, ultimately is defined in Genesis 1 as the first Man and Woman united), did God instantaneously create Man? Not at all. Rather, the text says that God ‘formed’ (יצר) the man from the mud of the earth, using the same word used for a potter, who forms a pot from wet-clay. While we are not made privy to any other details of how God molded the man, does not molding refer to a process of design steps as well? Something that takes time, so that this was not just an instantaneous thing?

Now of course, processes were very different in that amazing week. Consider the trees and plants that God “planted” (Gen 2:8) in Eden. “And Yahweh God caused to sprout-up / grow-up from the earth every desirable tree … within the midst of the garden” (Gen 2:9). I think there is a key here that helps to unlock a number of the problems us creationists have been trying to solve. That is this: Even though God formed many things into a fully mature state, like is true with Adam, with many other things God caused them to grow up from a visibly less mature state, as when he caused the trees and plants to sprout up from the ground. Within that rapid process, what was one minute a small and tender sapling, was 60 seconds later a ten foot tall, and still fastly growing pine tree (see C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, p. 105). The key is that the creation account does not rule out growth processes, albeit rapid and supernaturally driven growth processes.

So if the earth was created only about 6,000 years ago, how could starlight from galaxies billions of light years away have reached earth in that time? Creationists have put forth some great answers to this question. See for instance Russell Humphreys’ Starlight and Time. I feel we have gotten a lot closer to the truth with these models, even though all us admit that they still leave us with some difficulties. Which brings us to the ‘mature creation’ issue. A traditional answer to the distant starlight problem has been the ‘mature creation’ explanation, meaning that God created everything mature… The big problem I have with this is when it presumes that no rapid growth or maturing processes could have been employed by God in creating many things – such as plants, trees … but also: stars and galaxies! In the typical explanation, when thinking of galaxies and stars as being instantaneously created in their final mature state, the distant starlight problem was solved by appealing to ‘light created in transit’ (i.e. stretched out between the source star and us on earth). But this solution has been soundly rejected by many of us, because that would mean that with most of the stars we see, that in fact, their light never actually came from that star. But how satisfying is that? Imagine if you saw me wind up and throw a fast ball that then hit your shin, as I was wildly off target. But then I were to say: Oh, … well, I didn’t actually throw the ball, it was created in transit! Somehow, I don’t think you would like my answer.

But the alternative we offered above does not have this problem at all, because light is never ‘created in transit.’ It doesn’t have to be, because this view allows rapid growth of galaxies and stars, and of the light they emitted during all of that time, to all occur during creation week (particularly during day 4).

Danny Faulkner, a creationist astronomer, has recently argued for many of the points given above, in his paper entitled: “A Proposal for a New Solution to the Light Travel Time Problem.” Danny points out that according to the language of the text, the plants in the garden of Eden were “grown up,” not just instantly created. As such, he argues, it is possible that God used such a “rapid growth” process to supernaturally cause the light from distant stars (not to mention nearby stars as well) to reach the earth all during creation week. Since God used such a supernatural, very rapid growth process to create the plants of the garden of Eden, which were made to grow from zero to fully matured and ready to be eaten within at most a few hours of time, what’s to say he couldn’t have employed a similarly rapid but creative “growth” process to get the light from distant galaxies and stars to the earth very rapidly as well?

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/image/1308/arp271_gemini_2048.jpgComing back then to the belly button: Did the trees in the garden have their own form of a belly button? Namely, did they have knots and gnarls? More importantly, did they have bark (which normally requires the inner material to grow and then die)?1 Of course they must have! But we might have watched the bark grow forth very quickly. We might have watched what almost looked like a warp in time, as if, in the immediate atmosphere of that tree, like time was greatly sped up, almost like it had actually undergone decades of time all in minutes. (One thing is for sure: It takes some creativity to figure out what the creation processes actually looked like. This can be one of our great faults, which is thinking inside of a box, and failing to think big and creatively, albeit of course within the constraints of the text). Likewise then, we can ask the same question not just of distant starlight and how it got here, but of another issue that is just as thorny: Do distant stars and galaxies themselves have “belly buttons”?! The problem with starlight is that galaxies and stars do indeed seem to have their own forms of ‘bark and gnarls,’ such as galaxies that are interacting if not colliding.

What this solution allows (and this goes beyond what Danny proposed, though I am hopeful he may like this additional thought) is that all kinds of cosmic ‘stuff’ (processes and events) could have still occurred right during creation week, but just very rapidly as far as an observer from earth might have observed (if that would have been possible). This may have even looked very much like some of the time-dilation based models have imagined it. So: Do stars and galaxies have belly buttons?  What do you think?

If I lost you in any of this, … here’s a shorter summary: “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).


Postscript

  1. For a little timeline about this article, the original article was published in February of 2012 in a church bulletin (which had a strict 1 page limit). In that, I left out the explicit description about the starlight and time problem (because of space), but that was all along the major concern on my mind. Since then I have added that information and changed the title accordingly, but I still was trying to keep the main material and format of the first article. I am trying to limit too many further edits beyond what I have above, so for future discussion of this important topic, see future articles, God willing. 
  2. I would like to explicitly credit Danny Faulkner for first coming up with some of these core ideas, and particularly for first observing that the description of plant-growth in Genesis may be an analogy for how God created (through a creative growth process) the cosmos and / or the stellar objects in it. I believe his paper is a major step in the right direction. I haven’t seen much discussion of it yet in our camp, but there should be.
  3. One difference between what I am proposing and what Danny proposed, which I briefly detailed at the end of the article, is that while Danny’s ideas were more focused on solving how the light from distant stars got to earth in a rapid manner, my emphasis is just as much on answering how God formed the galaxies in the first place. How it is that they seem to have their own marks of time on them, which naturalistically speaking would have taken much more time to form. Danny actually made an important comment related to the question of galactic formation (in a private conversation some years back), which is that it is ironic that we are trying to remove “miracles” from the starlight travel time issue, but all along treat like nothing the momentous issue of how God formed the galaxies and the stars in the first place! The God who can create a galaxy, surely can also manage to make it’s light traverse a certain distance, “by his mighty hand, and by his outstretched arm…”It’s like this: What is a bigger miracle: Speaking a car into existence, almost instantly (or even better, having it “grow” out of the ground!), or causing that car to traverse a great distance faster than would be naturally possible? I would also add that there are other precedents to God rapidly trasporting objects: Such as * miraculously making an old prophet out-run one day a racing chariot, * immediately transporting Phillip the evangelist from one region to another, and I’m sure there are some other such examples.
  4. Consider that our galaxy is 100,000 light-years in diameter. That means it would take at least 100,000 years just for God to make the Milky Way (if it were a requirement that the light from all of its parts were visible throughout the galaxy), if he were really to have to limit himself to the naturalistic, slow speed of light. I realize that is an ironic sounding statement, but I think it is an accurate insight to the problem, so I sometimes call this: The slow speed of light problem. To the contrary, I am trying to envision God making the galaxies like he did the plants in the garden of Eden, in what we would have observed to be a rapid growth process. Think about it: Are we really going to require God to “sit around” for 100,000 years while he waits for the light in a single galaxy to traverse merely it’s own distance?! In one Scripture God speaks of measuring off the width of the heavens with a hand’s breadth. That means he can hold the whole entire cosmos in the palm of one of his hands. No, God doesn’t need to wait around for millions of years for light to naturalistically traverse the distance of his own palm. (!)
  5. Related to all of those points then, I would like to suggest the possibility that God’s rapidly growing or making of the galaxies might even be indistinguishable in some ways from a time-dilation type of solution. In other words, God might have actually had more time pass in the process of rapidly creating this or that galaxy. I am not however saying a naturalistic gravity well (black or white hole) is needed to create a naturalistic general relativistic effect to do this however. What is key is this: We can use the many helpful ideas from the time-dilation based cosmologies, and consider that many of these concepts may still apply, just so long as we avoid the pitfall of needing some naturalistic gravity well to make this work. If a natural means can cause an alteration in time, how much more so can God do this at will?! What all of this means then is that I am proposing we may still see some things in the universe that on their own appear to have taken more time than just 6,000 years, just as holds true with the time-dilation based solutions (such as Humphreys’).
  6. In conclusion: I believe that what Danny and I have suggested on this issue must seriously be considered. People had this issue in a box before. “Mature creation” meant instant, poof bang, full formation of creatures and objects instantly. That is a major assumption that brings with it major problems, and it is not supported from the processes we see God used in Genesis 1 and 2. When we allow God to have done work in time, using a process of creation, like Jesus taking mud and healing a blind man’s eyes, rather than just snapping his fingers and instantly healing him, it potentially removes the major objection of the previous “miraculous” solution: namely “mature [instant] creation” and the needed “light in transit” idea that follows from it. Instead of “mature” creation, this suggestion is rather about a “rapidly maturing” creation, or as I have more simply entitled this above: “rapid (cosmic, galactic, & stellar) growth” during creation week.

  1. “The rhytidome is the most familiar part of bark, it is the outer layer that covers the trunks of trees. It is composed mostly of dead cells and is produced by the formation of multiple layers of suberized periderm, cortical and phloem tissue.,” – Bark, Wikipedia 

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